Po Boy Views
Princess Pinky and the Flatbush Kid
Almost as a punishment at the nursing home, the ‘Bingo no-shows’ are wheeled into the dining room to watch the cooking channel. The blind, the deaf, the frail of mind and the stubborn of spirit, handed melamine cups of weak, tepid coffee or plastic glasses of acidic juice/water complete with hinged straw. By coincidence, two mismatched miscreants were seated side by side facing the seventy-inch flat screen. Her hands were in her lap, neatly dressed and quite proper; her eyes were dim and unfocused. He was wearing a faded tee shirt emblazoned Brooklyn, jeans with the knees out, a three day growth of beard and a petulant attitude. Both were well past their prime in age.
“The nerve of these guys” he opined, “just ‘cause you don’t wanna play some old lady’s game they tear you away from whadever ya doin’ and make you watch this crappola-- no offense--pardon my French, Lady.
“Christ on a crutch!” he erupted “They feed us slop that makes MacDonald’s look like a friggin’ celebrity joint and then they make us watch goor-met stuff being hatched just outside of our reach! Sadism is what I calls it!
“Say, you’re new here ar’ntcha? Well, ya better learn the ropes quick if you don’t wanna ‘game over’, if you get my drift….. whatcha name Honey?”
The not quite elderly, trim and neat woman turned and said quietly “I am M-M-Missus. P-P-P-Prinella P-Pinkers and I am p-pleased to m-meet you, I’m sure,M-M-Mister……”
“Oh, hey, the name’s Billy Macula but everybody around here calls me Flatbush ‘cause that’s where I’m from, you know Flatbush? Brooklyn? Nostrand Avenue? You know it? Close to the bridge, it’s changed, sure, but Jeeze, I had some swell times comin’ up there. I miss them times too, ya know?
“So Pinky, you mind if I call you Pinky? Swell- listen- I ain’t kidding when I’m tellin’ you that smart money gets the layout before they opens their mouth, see; and it’s good to have a friend on the inside what’s gonna give you the lowdown before there’s a showdown, capeesh?”
“T-Thank you, I’m sure M-Mister Bush b-but…….”
“Ah, don’t mention it, glad to do it, glad to do it; say, you’re all right with me Pinky!” Here he turned and winked as a more than conspiratory connection was established, at least in his mind. “Okay, there are five floors in this bird house: bottom floor: offices, laundry, break rooms and dining room, where we sit which doubles as a TV room, bingo and Sunday church go to meeting -- if one is so inclined. And I, for one, ain’t.
“Second and third floor is our living hell quarters and the fourth floor is the infirmary. The fifth floor is for the loonies and anyone who gives them trouble: you speak outa line and Bam!, they jab a needle in you and poof, you do a Houdini. You don’t want to go to the fifth floor—one: nobody hears from you again and – two: the cigarettes are more pricey; down here, they’re four for a buck, up there you only get three. Ya gotta conserve your money here-- they only give you thirty eight bucks a month as you well know-- stick with me kid, I’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.
“Next: there are three workin’ stiff shifts that you have to watch out for; the first is the Monday through Friday day shift, that’s the best one where there’s some kind of human milk of kindness, plus the bosses are around. Second: the night shift where you’re totally ignored unless you’re havin’ the epilepsy, bleedin’ to death or takin’ a leak in the hallway. And then there’s the worse and worser: weekend shifts AND the night shift on the weekends. Here’s where you could die of thirst, strangulation or a broken heart and nobody would notice till rigger-mautis sets in.
Now pinky, see that big guy over there pickin’ his bazoo ? Well that’s……….”
The Flatbush Kid talked for hours not slowing, waiting for a response or contribution to the conversation and ‘Princess Pinky’ (as she became to him) sat enthralled as the Kid wove tall tales, gossip, hearsay, rumor and conjecture around her consciousness like gossamer clouds; his memory, imagination and articulation astounded her, and when at times she rose to the occasion to question his information, he would grin lopsidedly, give her that wink and “hadja that time, didn’t I Pinky?” or “Hard to believe, ain’t it, Princess?” Needless to say, they became inseparable…..
One day the Kid turns to the Princess and says, “Ya know what Pinky, the other night after you went back to your room, I was thinking, ya know?
“I was thinking how what the whole point of livin’ this long is, see? Yer friends, family, loved ones, they die; you survive being poor, being rich, sickness, health--- you wake up in the morning with pains----being old hurts!-- you lose your freedom, your strength leaves you and all you have to show for making it this far is a single bed in a ‘facility’ with nothing more exciting than Bingo on Thursday night and The Golden Girls on TV, if you can stay awake long enough; sheesh, if I didn’t have my choppers, they’d be giving me baby food for dinner!
“And then I come down to breakfast and I see you waiting at ‘our’ table, smellin’ fresh and looking real fine. I swear Pinky, I don’t know what you see in this old wreck, but you…. you make my life worthwhile and, and, what I’m trying to say Pinky is that you’re the most important person in the world to me now, and I’m thankful for all the crappola that I been through just to sit here with you”
At that point the Princess’ eyes cleared and she looked at The Kid, as if into his soul. “Why Sir”, she said with a shy smile “are you flirting with me?”